Rail transport in Somalia

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Italian Somalia railway

Railway transport in Somalia consisted of the erstwhile Mogadishu–Villabruzzi Railway and secondary tracks. The system was built during the 1910s by the authorities in Italian Somaliland. Its track gauge was 950 mm (3 ft 1 38 in), a gauge favoured by the Italians in their colonies in the Horn of Africa and North Africa. The railway was dismantled in the 1940s by the British during their military occupation of Italian Somaliland, and was subsequently never rehabilitated.

Ferrovia Mogadiscio-Villabruzzi[edit]

The 114 km of the Mogadishu-Villabruzzi Railway (called in Italia "Ferrovia Mogadiscio-Villabruzzi") was the first railway in Italian Somaliland. It was built initially for the surrounding area of Mogadishu (Mogadiscio in Italian) after World War I.

In the 1920s, Principe Luigi Amedeo, Duca degli Abruzzi, a senior member of the Italian Royal Family, had the railway extended to the Shebelle River agricultural settlements that he was then developing. The railway reached Villabruzzi (Jowhar) in 1927.[1]

In 1930, the railway transported 19,359 passengers, including tourists. During the same year, 43,467 tons of products (mainly agricultural) were transported, with earnings up to 1,591,527 Somali lira. Most products transported were bananas, cotton and coffee from farm plantations in the Villabruzzi area, which were later exported through the Port of Mogadishu.

In 1924, a minor railway was built in the same region. It had a small track in 600 mm gauge, Genale-Afgoi. The railway was 46 km long and united the farming settlement of Genale with Afgoi on the Mogadishu-Villagio Duca degli Abruzzi route. Construction was managed by the Società Agricola Italo Somala (SAIS), which opened the track so that its plantations' powered sugar cane could be transported to the Mogadishu Port.

Mogadishu-Ethiopian frontier railway[edit]

In 1939, the Italian leader Benito Mussolini planned a rail connection between Mogadishu and Addis Ababa, after the Italian conquest of Ethiopia. However, World War II brought an end to the Italian Empire and consequently aborted the project.

A small 600 mm (1 ft 11 58 in) gauge railway of 250 km was constructed between Villabruzzi and the Somalia-Ethiopia border in order to solve the logistical problems related to the occupation of Ethiopia. In 1928-1936, the track was initially built in sections until Buloburde. The first railway section was 130 km long. It started in Bivio Adalei of the Mogadishu-Villaggio Duca degli Abruzzi railway. In summer 1940, at the beginning of the Second World War, the line was extended by the Italian army by about 150 km. The railway now reached Ferfer, near the present-day Somalia-Ethiopia border. Somali troops from the First and Second Somali divisions of the Italian colonial army helped during the construction.

Railway stations[edit]

Name Distance Altitude
Mogadishu 0 km (0.0 mi) 0 m (0 ft)
Bridge over the Shebelle River 30 km (18.6 mi) 18 m (59 ft)
Afgooye 50 km (31.1 mi) 64 ft (20 m)
Adale 66 km (41.0 mi) 78 m (256 ft)
Garsala 80 km (49.7 mi) 88 m (289 ft)
Moico 90 km (55.9 mi) 91 m (299 ft)
Bridge over the Shebelle River 111 km (69.0 mi) 96 m (315 ft)
Villaggio Duca degli Abruzzi (modern day Jowhar) 114 km (70.8 mi) 108 m (354 ft)


See also[edit]


  • Robinson, Neil (2009). World Rail Atlas and Historical Summary. Volume 7: North, East and Central Africa. Barnsley, UK: World Rail Atlas Ltd. ISBN 978-954-92184-3-5. 
  • Tripodi, Paolo. 'The Colonial Legacy in Somalia. St. Martin's P Inc. New York, 1999.